Time Out for Fun

I’ve been having a great time traveling for some cool events over the last few weeks. I’ve gotten to present a couple of MSDN Events in Reston and Richmond, VA. Along with my peers Zhiming Xue and Ashish Jaiman, I presented at MSDN Roadshows in Roanoke, VA, and Baltimore, MD. Just this Saturday I got to hang out with a bunch of geeks at the Richmond Code Camp 2008.2.

All that travel tends to be hard on the family, so this weekend we took a little time out for a road trip. I’ve been wanting for some time to check out one of the many caverns in Virginia that are open to the public. We ended up going to Luray Caverns, which is just an amazing experience. The tour of the caverns took around an hour, and it’s around a 1.25 mile walk.

Words alone can’t adequately describe the caverns, and fortunately, I had a few pictures that came out well (given the low light, I was shooting full auto and switching back and forth between flash and no flash). Here’s my favorite, a picture of an underground lake whose surface is so smooth that it’s completely mirror-like. The picture still doesn’t quite capture how breathtaking this is, but it comes close:

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The caverns have a paved path, which was nice since one of our young’ns is still strollerable. This photo shows the path, some of the beautiful columns and lighting:

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There are also some really cool curtain formations (at some points, some of these are as thin as 1/4 inch):

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Another highlight of the tour is the Great Stalacpipe Organ, which holds the title of DSC_0161the largest musical instrument in the world, spanning 3.5 acres in total. The organ consists of a keyboard console, which connects to a series of solenoids that drive  rubber mallets that tap various stalactites that resonate to create specific notes. Apparently the inventor, Leland W. Sprinkle, spent 3 years running around the caverns tapping on stalactites to identify the 82 notes that the organ can play. The sound, which is tonally similar to a marimba or similar percussion instrument, is quite otherworldly. Very cool.

In short, if you’ve never been to one of these caverns (and, of course, assuming you don’t have any issues with claustrophobia…there are some tight spaces), I would highly recommend them. It’s a nice reminder that this world has beauty even in places we cannot normally see.